The Bob Of Fettercairn reel

Also known as Bob O’ Fettercairn, The Bob O’ Fettercairn, The Braw Lads O’ Jethart, The Braw Lads Of Jedburgh, Kail And Knockit Corn, Newburn Lads, The Newburn Lads.

There are 6 recordings of this tune.

The Bob Of Fettercairn has been added to 2 tune sets.

The Bob Of Fettercairn has been added to 27 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Two settings

X: 1
T: The Bob Of Fettercairn
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
dBGB dBGB|dBdg f2df|e^cAc ecAc|edef gage|
dBGB dBGB|dBdg f2df|afge fdgB|(3AAA Bd e2eg:|
|:dgBg dgBg|dgBg f2df|ea^ca eaca|edef gage|
dgBg dgBg|dgBg f2df|afge fdgB|(3AAA Bd e2eg:|
X: 2
T: The Bob Of Fettercairn
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
dBGB dBGB|dBde f2 df|ecAc acAc|ecef gage|
dBGB dBGB|dBde f2 da|e2 fd edBg|AABd e2 g2||
dgBg dgBg|dgBg f2 df|eaca eaca|ecef gage|
dgBg dgBg|dgBg f2 da|e2 fd edBg|AABd e2 g2||
BGdG BGGB|dGBG f2 da|AAeA cAAc|eAcA gage|
BGdG BGGB|dGBG f2 da|e2 fd edBg|AABd e2 g2||
dgBg dgBg|dGBG f2 da|eaca eaca|eAcA gage|
dgBg dgBg|dGBG f2 da|e2 fd edBg|AABd e4||

Eleven comments

The Bob Of Fettercairn

A very old Scottish reel which dates back to the 1700s or possibly earlier. It sometimes gets played as a 4-part strathspey. For this strathspey version and other reel versions do a search for "fettercairn" or "fattercairn" at JC’s tunefinder. Not sure if "Bob" is a person’s name or Scottish dialect for a patch of grass or corn. The defintite article in the title featured in most sources suggests the latter. I find this tune interesting because of its C#s. It’s a GHB/border pipe tune, so it’s based on the 9-note scale of G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A. This makes the tune G lydian and not G major. Some sources have C naturals so if the C#s really offend you then play them natural. C#s like this sometimes appear in Gmaj tunes. Off the top of my head, some versions of the New Copperplate, Derry Craig Wood and Ed Reavy’s Letterkenny Blacksmith, all here on the database.

They play a version of this in Shetland - with the C#s. I think they call it Kail and Knockit Corn.

Kail & Knockit Corn

A recording of K & KC can be found on an LP recorded in Lerwick Town Hall, Shetland on the Leader label by Da Forty Fiddlers in 1971. This beautiful archive also contains recordings of The Cullivoe Players, Willie Barcley Henderson, John Henderson, Tom Anderson & Aly Bain.

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Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

Should your "c" notes not be sharp ?

Posted by .

Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

According to:
"Scales and Modes in Scottish Traditional Music" by Jack Campin

The "c" notes should indeed be "c#". And the tune is G Lydian.

For those not familiar with modes, you can think of it in two ways:
1. It is a G major scale but the 4th note "c" is raised a half/step (augmented 4th).
2. The key signature could be Dmaj, then no sharps would be required. But the scale starts on "g".

For music history gals and guys:
[[[The music theory is from: "COUNTERPOINT The Polyphonic Vocal Style of the Sixteenth Century" by Knud Jeppesen ]]]

The structure of the tune suggests that the composer(s) were familiar with Gregorian Church music. And that the mode may be more Gregorian Hypolydian, rather than modern Lydian or Gregorian Lydian.

Gregorian music was the formalized music of the Catholic Church from the 5th to the 17th century, but is still practiced today mainly in Gregorian Chant. These modes and scales existed prior to Christianity and had many similarities to ancient classical Persian and Greek music. What most of us today think of modes is more modern (European middle ages) and simpler system based on the "ancient Greek" modes (white piano key modes). I outlined each system at the end of this comment.

This tune has the three major characteristics of the Gregorian Hypolydian mode.
1. The Tonic is "g". Important note and the base of the scale (true for G Lydian or G Hypolydian).
2. The Hypolydian dominant would be "b". A tension note, but also a tonal center. The "b" is used a lot in the tune. The dominant in Lydian mode would be "c#". There are "c#" triads, but the "b" triads seem more "dominant".
3. The tune finally resolves on "e". This is pretty strange for Scottish music or most any musics. But this is exactly how a cliché Gregorian Hypolydian tune should finally resolve. (Some Persian and Arib modes also have similar characteristics.)

NOTE: The dominant "b" notes and triads, and the final resolution on "e" would suggest that this tune originally had "c#"s rather than "c".

So, modern (and ITM and STM) players would probably just think of this tune as Lydian. But someone familiar with Gregorian Church music (Catholic ecclesiastical modes) from the 5th century to the 17 century would definitely consider interpreting this tune as Gregorian Hypolydian. The Gregorian modes pretty much went out of favor starting in the 17th century when major/minor system developed. But, as I mentioned, they are still used in the Catholic Church Gregorian chanting. And I guess would have been used to some extent in the Scottish Highlands for many hundreds of years.

Modern ("ancient Greek") modes (++ and + means common in Scottish tunes):
4 Lydian — 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 5 - 6 - 7 1 T T T ST T S.
1 Major, Ionian ++ 1 - 2 - 3 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 1 T T S T T TS.
5 Mixolydian ++ 1 - 2 - 3 4 - 5 - 6 7 - 1 T T ST T ST .
2 Dorian + 1 - 2 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 7 - 1 T ST T T ST .
6 Minor, Aeolian - 1 - 2 3 - 4 - 5 6 - 7 - 1 T ST T ST T .
3 Phrygian — 1 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 6 - 7 - 1 ST T T ST T .
7 Locrian —— 1 2 - 3 - 4 5 - 6 - 7 - 1 ST T ST T T .
- Hijaz * - 1 2 - - 3 4 - 5 6 - 7 - 1 S3 ST ST T .

Gregorian Modes:
v-Resolution=Tonic >-Dominant=Tension=Development
G1-Dorian 1 - 2 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 7 - 1 >Dorian with 5 Dominant
G3-Phrigian 1 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 6 - 7 - 1 >Phrygian with 6 Dominant
G5-Lydian 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 5 - 6 - 7 1 >Lydian with 5 Dominant
G7-Mixolydian 1 - 2 - 3 4 - 5 - 6 7 - 1 >Mixolydian with 5 Dominant
G2-HypoDorian 5 - x 7 - 1 - 2 3 - 4 - 5 >Minor with 6 Dominant, 4 final (no 2)
G4-HypoPhrigian 6 - 7 - 1 2 - 3 - 4 - x 6 >Major with 6 Dominant, 3 final (no 7)
G6-HypoLydian 5 - 6 - 7 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 5 >Major with 6 Dominant, 4 final
G8-HypoMixolydian 5 - 6 7 - 1 - 2 - 3 4 - 5 >Dorian with b7 Dominant, 4 final

Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

My apologies before anyone catches it. These Gregorian ecclesiastical modes would probably be in the Orthodox churches as well as the Catholic church. Probably the Church of England as well, and some of the Protestant churches (maybe???) but I am getting into territory I know very little about.

Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

I appreciate your comment, Steve, but disagree with your analysis overall.

First, you’re correct that G Hypolydian would have G as the tonic (finalis) and that the dominant (reciting tone/tenor) would be B (if the scale was one tone above the normal convention).

However, I disagree firstly that B is an important note in this tune - it’s just a passing note in the middle of a G triad and the tune doesn’t dwell on it.

Secondly I disagree that a Hypolydian chant would resolve on the e as this tune seems to (and by the way, that isn’t uncommon in piping tunes). The range of a Hypolydian chant (if we imagine for a moment that it was centred on G) would rarely go as far up in range as the top e and would usually stop at d (the 6th above the final was the very highest possible in the range of the church Hypodorian scale, not any kind of important resolution note).

Thirdly, I don’t think the church Lydian mode, if it were centred on G, would have a c# dominant. The dominant would be d.

The lower 3 notes of G Hypolydian would be D, E and F#, which don’t even feature in this tune (we have only the ones an octave above). The whole point of Hypolydian is that it’s plagal, i.e. it’s about the range. Centred on G, the hypolydian would theoretically be D-E-F#-G-A-B-c#-d, so basically a Dmaj scale but centred on G and always coming back to that as the home note. That doesn’t reflect the range of this tune at all.

This tune is written for pipes and spans the range of the pipes. It’s an accident of design, really, that the tune turns out to be in this scale. On the unkeyed pipes, composers had limited notes available (G-A-B-c#-d-e-f#-g-a) so they created what tunes they could with those notes. I think the composer of this tune was a piper and was influenced by other Scottish pipers and other pipe tunes. Even if they were influenced by Gregorian Chant, there’s no evidence of that that I can see.

So, taken at face value without drones, this tune is G lydian. Actually, though, in practice a piper would be using drones on A throughout the tune so to the ear this would centre the tune on A, making it standard A mixolydian but starting weirdly, with an unresolved-sounding tension on the subtonic triad. You can hear this if you go to YouTube and listen to pipers playing the tune.

Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

Dr. Dow,

Thanks for pointing out my naive mistakes and especially for the additional analysis.
I spent some more time with the tune and can recognize all the things you explain.

Thanks so much for helping a newcomer understand the music better,

Re: The Bob Of Fettercairn

I should thank you! You’ve reignited my interest in plainsong. Kind of ironic given that I’m a militant atheist haha